Do's and Don'ts for Appearing in Court
Dress for CourtAlways, without exception, dress nicely for any court appearance you attend no matter if you are planning on appearing in front of a Judge or not. If you have been accused of a crime, this may be the first and only chance to make a good impression on your prosecutor. Treat it as you would a job interview. Gentlemen, a suit is not required but you need to wear a shirt with a collar and tuck it in! The lawyers, judges and court personnel take their jobs very seriously and you should show your respect by dressing accordingly. This does not mean you have to break out your Sunday best, but something clean and neat is mandatory. You should have plenty of notice for your court date, so plan ahead. Bring a change of clothes to work with you if you need to. Try to keep jewelry to a minimum, nothing flashy and covering up tattoos is generally a good idea. A judge has a very short time to make a decision about you and every detail can make a difference.
Plan AheadFirst and foremost, be on time! There is no better way to anger a Judge than to be late to court. Make sure that you have the correct date and time for your appearance. Well ahead of your court date, you should make sure you know exactly where the court house is, and exactly which court room you are require to be in. Your lawyer, the clerk of court, or the prosecutor's office can tell you exactly where you need to be. A security guard or bailiff can also help point you in the right direction. Give yourself plenty of time to park and get to the court room. Get there early! Courts do not always adhere to a strict schedule and arriving early gives you time to discuss any last minute details with your lawyer. Arriving early may also give you the opportunity to watch court proceedings before your case is called. This will help you feel more comfortable when the bailiff calls your name. Simply knowing where to stand and when to speak will make you feel much more at ease.
Speaking with a JudgeFrom the moment you step into a court room, a Judge may be watching and you should be mindful of that. Make sure you turn your cell phone off well before you enter the court room. Many courts will confiscate your phone if it rings and you could even be fined or charged with contempt. While you are waiting for your case to be called, sit quietly and observe. If court is ongoing, you do not want to distract from the proceedings by making noise. When it is time to address the Judge, always address her as "Your Honor" or "Ma'am". If you plan on speaking to the Judge and you are concerned you will be nervous, it is perfectly acceptable to bring prepared remarks. Please remember to be brief and to the point, remember the Judge has probably heard many cases already that day and has many more to hear after. Remember that body language is crucial. If you are saying one thing and your body language is conveying something different, the Judge will pick up on that.